A documentary about the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco won top prize at the fifth annual Inside Out Ottawa-Gatineau LGBT Film and Video festival.
David Weissman’s We Were Here documents the story of a community coming together during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, told firsthand through the eyes of five people.
At its Ottawa screening, the film took home the Audience Award for favourite feature.
Scott Ferguson, executive director of Inside Out, called Weissman’s documentary an “incredibly powerful film.
“Overall, the feedback was really incredibly positive for all of the work . . . [the films] were resonating with the audience well,” Ferguson says.
Inside Out is a non-profit registered charity that hosts two annual film festivals, one in Toronto and one in Ottawa-Gatineau. The Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival began in 1991, and the Ottawa-Gatineau offshoot is celebrating its fifth year running.
Ferguson says that attendance in Ottawa increased this year by almost 10 percent, to about 3,500 people. He attributes the increase to growing community awareness of the festival, as well as better local coordination and promotion.
“I think it really helps that we have a festival coordinator based in Ottawa, which helps us with on-the-ground community marketing,” he says.
Ferguson notes that Inside Out staff came to Ottawa from Toronto for a launch party a month before the festival kicked off. He wants to continue this strategy in the future as a way of keeping the festival in people’s minds.
“Moving forward, that’s a really important thing. We don’t just want to come up to Ottawa for four days every year; we want to be up there every couple of months to do a screening or an event,” he says.
Roísín Holahan, an incoming member of the Capital Pride board of directors, volunteered at the four-day festival. She says it was her first time attending Inside Out, and it exposed her to films she wouldn’t normally have a chance to see.
Holahan says she wishes Ottawa had a cinema that played such films year-round.
Although she identifies as heterosexual, Holahan says, “it’s the quality of the movies that mattered to me.”
Looking ahead to 2012, Ferguson says the Ottawa-based festival coordinator is key to keeping Inside Out visible. The coordinator will be attending bar nights and special events to distribute promotional material about the festival throughout the year.